Dead Man Dancing

I went to a very unusual nightclub recently. I won’t mention its name or tell you where it is because it’s not the sort of place I want to share. It didn’t look like anything special on first glance, the sort of place that nobody who’s anybody goes anywhere near. But the beer was reasonably priced, the music was mostly good and it was raining outside.

I hadn’t been in there for long before I noticed there was something very strange about the place. I was leaning against the bar, sipping my drink and idly glancing round at my fellow clubbers when I realised that everybody was there to dance. Most clubs have a range of customers. Some go to dance, some to drink, some to attempt to pick up a not too ugly member of the opposite sex. Some hover nervously near the dance floor with envy in their eyes and fear in their feet. But in this club everybody was dancing. Oh, they’d stop for drinks regularly. They’d sit at the tables or lean against the walls to rest. But it was never long before they’d be back on the floor, shuffling and gyrating and moving and grooving. That’s not to say that they were all good. There was the usual variety of dance styles and abilities, not always matched. But even those with no sense of rhythm showed no sign of embarrassment or hesitation. They got down there under the lights and wobbled and pranced and spun completely out of step with everyone else and seemingly without a care in the world.

It was the strobe lights that gave the game away. They began flashing on and off almost constantly, as though the club had shares in epilepsy medication. The strobes were so bright that I started to think I was seeing through the people on the dance floor. With every flash I was catching glimpses of skeletal faces turned upwards as though trying to catch the light in the darkness at the back of their empty eyeball sockets. Raised hands held gaunt fingers of glistening bone. I could see images of wasted arms and legs flickering through clothing. Fit and healthy people blinked into cadaverous corpses and back between strobe frozen moments of time.

I held up my hand and watched it for a few minutes to see if it was just some strange optical effect from the strobes. But no, my hand stayed as solid and alive as it had always been, while the dancers flickered back and forth between life and death.

I started to wonder if maybe I’d been working too hard. My grandmother always told me, hallucinations are your brain’s way of telling you to slow. But this was all too real. Too strange, but very real. I continued to watch, trying to figure out what made them look like that.
It came to me slowly. It wasn’t the strobes that made them appear to be dead. It was the fact that they were dead. Apart from the bar staff and myself, everyone in the club was dead. Though they weren’t letting it slow them down.

Now, I’ve been around this world a couple of times. I’ve been to strange and interesting places and I’ve seen some mighty strange things. But nothing quite like this. I’ve seen things I can’t explain, but little things. Handy disposable use-once-and-throw-away type strangeness. Ordinary garden variety, wrinkle your forehead, shrug your shoulders and get on with your life type weirdness. I’ve seen a man jump face first through a plate glass window and emerge without a single cut or scratch on him. I’ve seen the ugliest man in a pub go home with the most beautiful girl. I’ve even seen adults listening to Justin Bieber with true joy on their faces. I can’t explain any of these things, but I don’t have to because they’re small enough for me to slot away in nice neat pigeonholes of oddity.

But something like a nightclub full of highly animated corpses is not something that can be folded up neatly and hidden away in a rarely used mental drawer at the back of your mind. I thought about asking someone about it. But somehow I couldn’t bring myself to go up to the bar staff and say, “I see dead people…dancing.” So all I did was watch and wonder.
I watched some of them closely. They didn’t seem to be ghosts. There were no signs of anybody walking through walls or floating about rattling chains. Apart from the fact that they were dead they were perfectly normal.

I stayed there all night. Watching and studying and trying to figure it out. Forget the how, that’s too much for me to think about, but why? Why would dead people want to go to a nightclub? Was it just for the music and the dancing? That’s what it looked like, but why?

I completely lost track of time and suddenly the club started to empty out as dawn broke over the city. I tried to follow a few of the dead clubbers but somehow lost them. They didn’t seem to fade away or turn to smoke or anything like that. They’d turn a corner and I’d follow them two seconds later and they’d be gone.

I haven’t been back since that night. But I plan to. I don’t know why the dead go to the club but I intend to find out. One night soon I’m going to go back and talk to them. I’m going to talk to the dead and find out what stories they have to tell. And then maybe I’ll do a little dancing of my own.